In a July letter, Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels, director of OSHA, outlined his agenda for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration:
1. Stronger Enforcement: Some Employers Need Incentives to Do the Right Thing. Comment: We at CHESS have heard quite a bit about this. Recently we have started seeing the impact of stronger enforcement and OSHA working to find the financial and legal deterrents to get their message through to employers.
2. Ensure Workers Have a Voice: This includes outreach to workers, especially those most vulnerable, increased whistleblower protection, and listening to worker concerns.
3. Refocus and Strengthen Our Compliance Assistance Programs: this will be done through Consultation Services, increased grants and cooperative agreements, more assistance available and the tools to address the needs of workers, and more worker participation.
4. Change Workplace Culture: Employers Must “Find and Fix” Workplace Hazards: To OSHA this means employers must identify and correct hazards–being proactive, not just reactive. Workplace injury and illness prevention programs fall under this.
5. Develop Innovative Approaches to Addressing New (and Old) Hazards: Improve Intra-Agency Collaboration: One item OSHA will look at is making sure those who write the rules and those who enforce them work together. Within OSHA and with other agencies, MSHA (mine safety), NIOSH, EPA, and so on, Dr. Michaels would like to see more cooperation and coordination. He also mentions finding a better way to set and review permissable expsoure limits.
6. Improve and Modernize Workplace Injury and Illness Tracking: Strengthen our Focus on Accurate Recordkeeping: Injury information can be used by employers to focus injury prevention and by OSHA inspectors to target their inspections. Studies have found that there is inaccurate or under-reporting of injuries, more so in certain industries. OSHA will be looking at ways to correct this.
7. Strengthen OSHA’s Use of Science: OSHA aims to strengthen its relationship to scientific and public health communities and look at emerging technologies to address hazards more quickly.
8. Strengthen State OSHA Plans
9. Conduct Our Work with Transparency, Openness, Integrity and Humility: OSHA has started holding “OSHA Listens: sessions, garnering input from many stakeholders (workers, professionals in the field, employers), including the families of workers who have been killed on the job.
OSHA is starting an internal Wiki project, OSHApedia, to help increase collaboration and dissemination of information.
It’s a lot of stuff, but all exciting, with the goal of protecting one of businesses’ most valuable assets–its workers.